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 You are in: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > From the Under Secretary > Remarks, Testimony, and Releases from the Under Secretary > 2002

APEC Second Ministerial Meeting on Women

Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs
Remarks to the APEC Second Ministerial Meeting on Women
Guadalajara, Mexico
September 28, 2002

Madame Chairwoman, honorable ministers, and distinguished guests, I am delighted to be here with you. I have been impressed by the many excellent presentations here this morning and welcome the opportunity to share with you the United States’ experience in promoting women’s integration into our economy.

The Special Challenge of Our Time

One of the lessons that history has taught us is that women’s issues cannot be divorced from the general issues that confront our societies and economies as a whole. Indeed, if women are truly to enter the international mainstream, they must constitute an integral part of the debate about every important issue. At root, all issues are women’s issues -- from the fight against terrorism that will make women and their families safer, to health to education to financial issues. This unity of women’s interests with national and international interests and the need to involve women in all facets of policy has been at the heart of President Bush’s entire vision. At the APEC Summit meeting in Shanghai last October, President Bush stated, "The greatest resource of any nation is the creative energies of its people. They must gain the skills demanded by a new economic world. Only when literacy and learning are widespread will the benefits of the global economy be widely shared." Our meeting today is about ensuring that the benefits of the global economy are shared by -- but especially by women.

Economic Integration of Women

Today I will focus specifically on the role of women in the U.S. economy. I am proud to report that women have made and are continuing to make considerable advances in their roles in the U.S. economy. These advances have come at all levels -- from college campuses where women now earn a majority of undergraduate and graduate degrees right up to the boardroom where women CEO’s have become commonplace at corporations of all sizes.

The full economic integration of women, both at home and abroad, has been fully supported -- indeed has been championed -- by the U.S. Government. I think our record amply demonstrates this approach, in policy and personnel choices alike.

To take but one example, earlier this year, The Washington Post newspaper reported that "President Bush has appointed more women to influential staff positions than has any other President." In fact, I recall seeing a photo taken in the White House’s Emergency Communications Center in the frantic hours after the terrorist attacks of September 11. That photo shows National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and White House advisors Karen Hughes and Mary Matalin helping President Bush to lead our nation in one of its most difficult moments. I was struck by this vivid example of women’s progress and women’s leadership in our country.

My distinguished colleagues on the U.S. delegation to this meeting also represent this point. At the global level, our efforts are spearheaded by the Senior Coordinator for International Women’s Issues, who is here with me today. Throughout every government department, including our Departments of Labor and Commerce, the office of our Trade Representative, and at our Overseas Private Investment Corporation, women holding senior executive positions help determine the United States’ international economic policy agenda.

The U.S. Government also actively facilitates the emergence of women business leaders with programs and initiatives that are focused specifically on meeting their needs. To cite just a few of these programs, last March, thousands of businesswomen attended a White House Summit on Women’s Entrepreneurship co-hosted by the Department of Labor and the Small Business Administration. Just this week, the U.S. Government sponsored a mentoring project that paired American women CEO’s with their counterparts in the Baltic states. And the Department of Commerce recently sponsored a trip to encourage women business owners to do business in Africa.

Within APEC, the United States is proud to be the co-sponsor of an important project to collect and analyze sex-disaggregated economic data. This effort, with the Census Bureau in the lead for us, is no mere academic exercise. Ensuring the availability of precisely this kind of data will lay the foundation for more effective policies on a broad range of economic issues in the years ahead.

Women in the U.S. Economy: Larger Trends

Considering some larger trends in the U.S. economy, a glance at some statistics is instructive. Today, women hold higher-level jobs than in the past. In the year 2000, women constituted almost half -- 45% -- of all executives and managers. This is a considerable improvement since 1983, when that proportion was still under one-third. Similarly, women accounted for 28% of all U.S. medical doctors in the year 2000, up substantially from 16% in 1983.

Projecting forward, we anticipate that women will represent nearly 60% of the net growth in the labor force to the year 2010. In absolute numbers, almost 10 million women will enter the workforce. This will bring the female share even closer to the halfway mark than today’s already noteworthy figure of 47%.

Equally significant are several key points about this projected growth in jobs. First, it will depend more heavily on education. Occupations requiring a post-secondary vocational certificate or academic degree, which accounted for 29% of the total in 2000, will account for 42% of job growth through the year 2010. Second, job growth will be mostly in the private sector, with services comprising 60% and retail adding another 15%. It is therefore mainly in the private sector that women in the U.S. will find economic opportunity.

That brings me to my last set of statistics. There are currently over 9.1 million women business owners in the United States. These businesses employ more women than the entire list of Fortune 500 companies combined. Their sales total over $1 trillion each year with about 100,000 firms owned by women enjoying at least $1 million in annual revenue.

Moreover, the trends in this sector are highly favorable. Over the past five years, the number of women-owned businesses rose by approximately 14% while their sales and employment grew even faster, at 40% and 30% respectively. This rate of job growth was more than 1.5 times higher than the comparable rate for firms owned by men.

Women in the U.S. Economy: Next Steps

What do all these numbers tell us? Let me conclude with a few hypotheses. First, the areas of greatest potential growth, especially for women, are likely to be those that put a premium on knowledge, technical and marketing agility, and innovation. Second, while there is clearly an important role for government policies, it is unrealistic to expect the biggest economic gains for women to come solely from government programs. Rather, we can expect the private sector in individual economies, and the global free market, to lead in this regard.

Third, social and cultural considerations will continue to place greater relative value for many women on certain preferences. These include flexible work schedules and locations, personally satisfying or socially responsible careers, or the ability to move in and out of the workforce to meet changing family circumstances and obligations.

These considerations suggest that one of the best new economic options for many women may be self-employment, particularly as proprietors of locally based businesses. Microfinance can be one of our key tools to help make this happen, and I hope we will have a lively discussion on that subject this afternoon.

Conclusion

Our overall goal, whatever tools we choose, is to unleash the productive power of all our people, including the half who are women. Secretary of State Powell put this best when he said, "We, as a world community, can not even begin to tackle the array of problems and challenges confronting us without the full and equal participation of women in all aspects of life." I believe that we in the United States have taken some satisfying strides along this path, but we are always in the market, for new ideas and inspiration.



Released on October 8, 2002

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